Thursday, January 16, 2014

Roundup: Too crazy to drive? ... and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that haven't made it into their own, individual posts but deserve Grits readers' attention:

Drivers license application includes pointless, invasive mental health question
The Houston Chronicle today reported on criticism of a question on the Texas Department of Public Safety driver's license application asking, "Within the past two years, have you been diagnosed with, been hospitalized for or are you now receiving treatment for a psychiatric disorder?" The question has been on the application since the 1970s, but "Gyl Switzer, public policy director for Mental Health America of Texas, said the mental health questioning should be purged from applications." In 2012, 242 applications were flagged for review by an advisory board at the Department of State Health Services. Of those, 102 "did not forward information from their doctor so their applications were tossed out. The board recommended 32 people be denied a license."

Travis jail eliminates in-person visitation, profits from video contract
The Travis County Jail has switched exclusively to video visitation, eliminating face-to-face visits with inmates by friends and family, reported the Austin Statesman. Now, only attorneys can meet in person with inmates. Notably, the jail is making money off the deal. "Securus Technologies Inc. installed the system at no cost to the county last year. Securus charges outside callers $20 for a 20-minute conversation with an inmate and gives the county $4.60 from each call." County commissioners, though, weren't told when the deal was approved that face-to-face visits would be eliminated. Notably, the Prison Policy Initiative last month called on the FCC to regulate charges for video visitation, complaining that the elimination of in-person visits often resulted from "perverse incentives" created by such contracts.

Metal detectors installed to prevent cell-phone smuggling in Bexar Jail
The Bexar County Jail has installed metal detectors that all staff are now required to pass through in order to combat contraband smuggling after they found a smuggled cell phone, reported the SA Express-News. "In October, inmate Paul Reyes was caught with a cellphone after photos of him in jail surfaced on Facebook."

'The Real Victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse'
An article from Slate with the same title as this subhed explored the Fran and Dan Keller case out of Travis County.

Frisco man arrested for sign warning drivers of speed trap
Another arrest for contempt of cop.

SAPD may test "feasibility" of body cameras
San Antonio is considering a pilot program to test the "feasibility" of police officers wearing body cams, reported the Express-News. I'm a big fan of this idea. A New York Times story on the topic last year said departments using body cams saw dramatic reductions both in citizen complaints and use of force incidents. (Note to Adafruit and other wearable tech producers: Don't let Taser International corner this market!)

Border Patrol lending drones to local law enforcement
The Border Patrol has been using drones on behalf of local law enforcement agencies, including along the Mexican border, though they won't say which ones. Reported the Washington Post, "there is a huge, unfed appetite among police agencies for drones and their powerful surveillance tools, which include infrared cameras and specialized radar."


Anonymous said...

Uh, excuse me but there is provision of state Texas Statute that specifically states that warning oncoming traffic of a peace officer enforcing subtitle C of the Transportation Code is NOT an offense.

The Fishing Physicist

Anonymous said...


(a) A person
commits an offense if the person with criminal negligence
interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with:
(1) a peace officer while the peace officer is
performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(1)
that the conduct engaged in by the defendant was intended to warn a
person operating a motor vehicle of the presence of a peace officer
who was enforcing Subtitle C, Title 7, Transportation Code.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ Fishing Physicist, that's why I said the charge was "contempt of cop." Holding up the sign was an act of free speech and clearly not against the law.

I consider it an act of common courtesy to flash one's headlights to warn oncoming drivers of a speed trap. While I personally don't possess the level of commitment to stand by the side of road with a sign, clearly it's not, and shouldn't be, illegal.

Paul-UK said...

In reply to the article on police being issued with body cams, this has become an issue over here following the Duggan shooting (which lead to the riots here) The police are looking to equip all armed response units with these to avoid confusion that may arise

Anonymous said...

"In Martin's case, the officers charged him with violating Frisco's human sign ordinance, a Class C misdemeanor."

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@4:42: Read: "Contempt of cop."

Anonymous said...

Re: Too crazy to drive. DPS should not be faulted for enforcing these provisions of the Transportation Code:

Sec. 521.201. LICENSE INELIGIBILITY IN GENERAL. The department may not issue any license to a person who:

* * *

(5) has been determined by a judgment of a court to be totally incapacitated or incapacitated to act as the operator of a motor vehicle unless the person has, by the date of the license application, been:

(A) restored to capacity by judicial decree; or

(B) released from a hospital for the mentally incapacitated on a certificate by the superintendent or administrator of the hospital that the person has regained capacity;

(6) the department determines to be afflicted with a mental or physical disability or disease that prevents the person from exercising reasonable and ordinary control over a motor vehicle while operating the vehicle on a highway, except that a person may not be refused a license because of a physical defect if common experience shows that the defect does not incapacitate a person from safely operating a motor vehicle;

* * *

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@5:51, I agree the Lege could and should change that language, but the question asked on the DPS application is much broader than that.

Anonymous said...

The same police dept. put up an electronic sign on a richy richers street that read out your exact speed as you approached, and one block down they had two cops waiting to ambush.

I wonder what sentence the sign got for warning drivers?

The same police dept. wrote up a couple that ran out of money and gas for holding up a sign that mentioned god bless you. anyone have an Update on their fate?

I look for forward to Updates re his jury trial. Frisco is full of weirdos.

Anonymous said...

Frisco seems to have revealed their true intentions in this incident. Any reasonable method used to gain voluntary compliance is normally considered a success. However, voluntary compliance does hurt ticket revenue. Seems they WANT speeders in this case.

Old Road Dog